With calls from MPs and motoring groups growing, the government could be forced to consider completely banning drivers from using hands-free mobile phones when behind the wheel. In a recent report published by the government's Transport Select Committee, the research shows that “using any mobile phone or other device while driving – whether hand-held or not – is a distraction that's detrimental to a driver’s ability to drive safely”. The report claims that current laws are misleading, giving drivers the impression that hands-free devices are safe, when in actual fact pose an equal risk of causing a collision as using a hand-held mobile phone does.
The report further highlights and supports research carried out by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), citing that drivers using a mobile phone are much less aware of their surroundings and what is happening on the road, fail to notice road signs and don’t maintain a steady speed or adopt a proper lane position. It also reported that motorists are more likely to tailgate, react to situations slower and take longer when it comes to braking and ultimately stopping, which is why the Transport Select Committee is insisting that the government consider prohibiting the use of mobile phones completely in order to improve road safety.
While it has been illegal to use a hand-held phone at the wheel since 2003, current UK laws still permit the use of hands-free phones while driving. However, figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) show that in 2017, 43 people were tragically killed and 135 were left seriously injured, where using a mobile device while driving was a contributing factor. With the number of people killed or seriously injured in such incidents continuously rising year on year, March 2017 saw an increase in penalties, meaning that any driver would now face a £200 fine and six penalty points if caught using a hand-held device while driving.
However since 2011, the number of people prosecuted for using a phone or other hand-held device has fallen by more than two-thirds. The RAC believes that this is a direct result of having fewer traffic officers operating on roads. With this in mind, MPs have urged the government to reconsider whether penalties should be increased further "to better reflect the serious risks created by drivers committing this offence" and that the government should work in conjunction with the police to “boost enforcement and make better use of technology”.
While there’s no doubt that roads would certainly be a lot safer with a complete ban on using a mobile device while driving, could it not be argued that talking to a passenger or having noisy children in the back of the car is just as distracting as using hands-free? Just some food for thought.
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